Why Snowshoeing Is Awesome for Urban Teens!

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Jen, Family Ambassador

I didn’t start snowshoeing until just a few years ago. A lot of factors led to my late start—as a kid who grew up in an urban environment, I never saw anyone snowshoeing in the winter. Heck, I didn’t even realize we had a state forest in my hometown until I was in my thirties! Not to mention, though relatively inexpensive for many families, snowshoes were an insurmountable cost in my youth, much like they are today for the teenagers my wife, Kendra, and I work with in my hometown. When basics like food and housing are a struggle, snowshoes don’t even make the list of things to buy.

Yet teens living in urban environments can greatly benefit from snowshoeing. So many studies point to the wondrous effects of time spent outdoors in nature, and ironically the youth who need it most tend to have the least access to an incredibly valuable, free resource!

Having found outdoor adventures as an adult, I realized how much I had missed out on as a kid. My experiences led me to start the outdoor adventures club in my hometown’s high school, where I worked as a teacher. It was a hit, and for the last two years, we’ve taken a small group of students snowshoeing during our February vacation. All have found it to be a transformative experience.

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This year, Tubbs helped us out by sending along snowshoes for the students to borrow for the weekend. Their faces upon opening the bags of Tubbs were priceless – grins from ear to ear, and disbelief that a company would lend them something so nice. You could tell they felt special, and grateful, for the trust and investment Tubbs was making in them as young urban outdoor adventurers.

Our weekend didn’t go quite as planned. We only were able to snowshoe one day, as the lovely blizzard Neptune hit the east coast and dumped not just 18 inches of snow, but brought 30 mph winds and a windchill of -30. So we made the most of the snowy Saturday we had before the blizzard kept us in our cabin, and hiked 4.26 miles through the woods surrounding the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Noble View Outdoor Center. (Thanks to grants from the AMC’s Youth Opportunities Program, we got a discounted rate to stay overnight, and they provided us with tons of gear to keep everyone safe and warm!)

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Snow fell gently upon us as we trekked through the woods, eventually making it to frozen waterfalls. Though at times the hike was difficult, everyone persevered, learning to push themselves through deep snow and sore muscles. By the time we made it back to the cabin, everyone was starving!

After filling up on dinner and hot chocolate, Kendra and I took a smaller group on a night hike during which we taught them about sense of smell, triboluminescence, and the magic of our eyes’ cones and rods. While we were hiking, the sky cleared for a brief moment, allowing us to see a nighttime view very unlike the one in our city. Mesmerized, the students plopped on their backs in the snow and gazed at the twinkling stars until they grew too cold to stay outdoors.

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It was an awesome experience, and we are excited to have 15 new members of the snowshoeing world! I think our student Andre said it best: “This weekend adventure at Noble View, I realized that snowshoeing, hiking, and just plainly being outside was a wonderful and enjoyable experience. I understood why it’s so much fun. The friends you make, the incredible sights you see, the things you learn, all of those make the great outdoors a fantastic place to be.”

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